Aromatic Chicken from the Shan Hills

Khua Haeng

What always strikes me about the recipes from the Shan repertoire is how economical they are for the cook. Often there’s only one pot needed, and the techniques involved extract the maximum flavor from the ingredients in a short time.

For this dish, there’s no marinade, no waiting around, just a quick first frying of the chicken with flavorings, and then the addition of aromatics for the last fifteen minutes or so as it cooks to tender succulence. Serve with rice or over noodles, with some greens, say Tender Greens Salad with Crispy Fried Shallots or Lima Beans with Galangal.


  • cup chopped garlic
  • ½ cup sliced ginger
  • 2 dried red chiles, stemmed
  • About 1 tablespoon salt
  • ¼ cup peanut oil or vegetable oil
  • One 3- to 3½-pound chicken, chopped into small pieces (see A Note on Chopped Chicken) and rinsed
  • 1 cup sliced white or yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon turmeric
  • 3 stalks lemongrass, trimmed, smashed, and sliced into 1-inch lengths
  • 2 Roma (plum) or other fleshy tomatoes, cut into small wedges (about 8 per tomato)
  • cup very fresh tender young lime leaves
  • ½ cup coriander leaves, finely chopped


If you have a mortar, pound the garlic, ginger, and chiles together with a little salt to make a coarse paste; if not, mince them. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a large pot or wok over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and turn the pieces in the hot oil for about 3 minutes. Add the onion, 2 teaspoons of the salt, the turmeric, lemongrass, garlic, ginger, chiles, and tomatoes and stir and cook for 2 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the lime leaves and another ½ teaspoon salt, stir, and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the chicken is tender and cooked through. Taste and adjust the salt if you wish.

Add the coriander, stir in, and serve.